Barbara Jordan: A Lifetime of firsts
A political pioneer, passionate about pursuing justice for all Americans


Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was a civil rights leader, a lawyer, an educator, and a politician who rose to the national stage as the first woman elected to the Texas senate (in 1966) and the first African American woman from the deep south elected to the House of Representatives, in 1972. Although it wasn’t generally known at the time, she was the first lesbian elected to Congress.

A leading presence in Democratic Party politics for two decades, Jordan was the first African American to deliver a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1976, where she said, “We believe in equality for all, and privileges for none. This is a belief that each American, regardless of background, has equal standing in the public forum, all of us.”

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, she gave the influential opening speech of Richard Nixon’s 1974 impeachment hearings. A staunch defender of the constitution—which she reminded us, had not included “African Americans in its ‘we, the people’ preamble—Jordan spoke of the “checks and balances designed to prevent the abuse of power.”

She retired after three terms in Congress to become a professor and policy advocate. Remembered for her commitment to the betterment of her country and its citizens, she said, “What people want is simple. They want an America as good as its promise.”

“If the society today allows wrongs to go unchallenged, the impression is created that those wrongs have the approval of the majority.”

– Barbara Jordan